A Message from D. Kimm, artistic director

D. Kimm [Photograph: Rolline Laporte]
D. Kimm [Photograph: Rolline Laporte]

Artistic Director

The year of the pandemic has been filled with mourning. We have mourned all the artistic creations that did not happen, the performances that had to be cancelled, the projects that needed to be postponed, the colleagues who decided to switch careers, and the inspiring people we lost, such as Serge Bouchard and, most recently, Michel Garneau. How can I, as a female artist and director of a creation company and festival, stay the course in these uncertain, discouraging times? I must be resilient and brave. But I must also be humble and receptive.

Whether it is due to the pandemic or simply a natural evolution, we find ourselves facing unprecedented obstacles in the rather calm history of our privileged country. There are terrifying environmental concerns that leave us feeling powerless, along with very concrete issues involving inclusion and diversity where we have the power to act. Times have changed, and we must reassess our values and current behaviours. I am not the type to make grand speeches and rip my shirt off in public. I like to learn, to listen, and to take action. And I like making a tangible difference.

With the Phénomena Festival, and long before that with the Festival Voix d’Amériques, I have always strived to give a platform to different voices by inviting Indigenous, racialized, or queer artists to perform. But I wanted to go even further and question our ways of doing things—without losing sight of our mission. And I chose two different strategies.

First, I recruited Claudia Chan Tak to act as Diversity Commissioner. She was tasked with finding emerging artists from diverse backgrounds and helping us rethink the ways we do things. Claudia is a formidable multidisciplinary artist with unbridled energy who is committed to giving new, diverse faces more exposure. Along with creating magnificent tableaux vivants and a short presentation of each artist, she was newly inspired by her mandate to set up a Quebec Asian Artist Directory on her Facebook page. Now that is tangible. Make sure to read her inspiring introductory message.

Second, I have been working on an inclusive show for months entitled L’Oeil éveillé, featuring a collective of deaf artists. I have been interested in deaf culture since I first created Phénomena in 2012, and the festival has presented the work of deaf artists on several occasions. This year, I decided to become even more involved by creating a collective bringing together 6 artists and by studying LSQ (Quebec Sign Language) myself.

The collective functions as one body and all decisions are made together. The long-term goal is to support artists in their artistic and professional development and to give them more exposure within the hearing community. The collective’s artists already have several creations to their name and are well known in their own community. They are talented, dynamic, ambitious, creative, and brave—and they deserve to be more widely recognized.

This show, featuring four performances, will be a great opportunity for the deaf community to come together and celebrate these talented artists and their determination. But I am addressing the hearing public when I say: don’t miss this rare opportunity to discover another way to communicate, as well as to get to know this very active community. Quebec Sign Language is rich and complex; it is its own language, complete with a unique syntax and codes. But the truly fascinating part is that it is an incredibly expressive language—one that is difficult to master. I can attest to that.

I want to end by saying THANK YOU. Thank you to everyone who has allowed me to create, realize, and push this wonderful, extravagant, unclassifiable, and whimsical little festival to greater heights. Thank you to all the artists, collaborators, creators, colleagues, to my Board of Directors, and of course, to all our sponsors. Thank you to everyone who has worked and collaborated with me, and who has provided me with small, not-so-small, and sometimes very large helping hands over the years. Phénomena could never have soared without you, and neither could I.